Maternal love inspires artist to return

October 26, 2022 - 09:50
Nhân Dân Cuối Tuần (People's Weekend) reporter Phong Vân interviewed painter Vincent Monluc, half Vietnamese and half French, about his decision to return to Việt Nam.
Artist Vincent Monluc.

Painter Vincent Monluc is half Vietnamese and half French. He managed the first private animation studio in HCM City for eight years. He has recently returned to Việt Nam and experienced the sentiment of the Vietnamese during the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak.

Nhân Dân Cuối Tuần (People's Weekend) reporter Phong Vân interviewed him about his decision.

Could you introduce yourself? Your name seems not to be related to your Vietnamese motherland?

Yes, that is what I regret. I grew up in Sài Gòn-Tân Định. I remember that I liked painting, watching movies and sightseeing, and wandering alone when I was small.

My mother took me on a cruise leaving Sài Gòn for Marseille to reunite with my father when I was 11. After meeting my father, I did not live with him, but my parents agreed to send me to a seminary. After that, I only visited home a few times a year.

I liked candy but didn't have money, so I devised a way to sell my drawings to classmates who liked them. Priest Charles Alessandri knew this and gave me painting tools, but he asked me to stop selling paintings.

He also introduced me to my friend's family so I could go to his family at the weekend. I was educated in the French tradition of critical principles, love and respect.

I graduated in fine arts from the University of Bordeaux Montaigne. During my academic years, I studied art history from ancient to modern times and visited many fine art museums in Paris, Spain, the Netherlands, Italy, and Britain.

An artist needs to enjoy the works of masters in different periods.

Could you tell me about your first return to Việt Nam in 1994, thirty years after leaving?

It is a long story. But, first, I set up a career in France. After graduating from the Department of Animation at the National School of Decorative Arts in Paris, my first animated short film was awarded the Grand Prize at the French National Animated Film Festival in 1983.

Some producers wanted to send me to South Korea and China to work for them, but I always refused. Finally, in 1994, another French producer invited me to set up a 2D animation studio in HCM City.

They aimed to produce the film as soon as possible at the lowest possible production cost. However, to develop an idea in such a difficult field as animation, a skillful artist still needs at least two years of apprenticeship, mastering the processes and techniques involved in animation production.

Training costs are huge, but investors don't want to open their wallets. I accepted the offer because I am Vietnamese. I was motivated to help create an animation industry in Việt Nam. It was a chance to provide jobs for many people.

I left the studio in 2002. It has become one of the developed studios in HCM City with 140 staff. Each month, it produces two animations with a standard length of 26 minutes. It has become an investment model for some other foreign investors.

So far, despite changing jobs, I still keep in good contact with friends from that time and our studio. During those eight years, I have not only trained many employees for our studio, but I also had the opportunity to explore my motherland to feel and admire its beauty with the hope that one day I would spend all my time drawing it.

You have two solo exhibitions in HCM City. How were they received?

My artist friends said that I draw Vietnamese landscapes and daily life with love. The exhibition goers said they rarely see other artists draw like me, such as a worker doing in the street or a street vendor at noon. Most of them agree that my paintings are vivid and create much movement.

Why do you draw with watercolour?

I am a person who pursues the attraction of light in fine arts and daily life, so I choose to be an outdoor artist. Việt Nam is an endless inspiration for me. I will try to visit different areas in the country to get closer to Vietnamese culture and put Vietnamese soul into my works.

Landscape in Sa Pa No 1. — Photos coutersy of the artist

What do you think about the Vietnamese soul?

I believe that each Vietnamese artist has their own feeling about the Vietnamese soul. Việt Nam has a rich past and a diversified present. Each area is a typical character to lure people to come to stay, feel and think about it.

Besides living in HCM City, I have taken advantage to travel to Sa Pa, Hà Nội, Huế, Hội An, Central Highlands provinces and Côn Đảo Island in Bà Rịa-Vũng Tàu Province. I want to "draw" the Vietnamese soul, meaning I draw what I feel about Việt Nam.

I don't hesitate to draw subjects that many Vietnamese artists may find "not beautiful" lyrically or romantically.

I seek the real rather than the pure beauty, but that does not stop me from painting a beautiful landscape or a beautiful light of my homeland.

Emotionally, I see myself as more of a Vietnamese than a French because of maternal love. — VNS